Small Business Still Ignoring Social Media

Posted on Oct 19, 2009 by Michael Herman | Posted in Social Media

social-media

A new study out today shows the vast majority of small businesses are still not using social media. They are instead relying on “proven” methods like television ads, magazine ads, etc. (you know, dinosaur stuff).

Three-quarters of small businesses say they have not found sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn helpful for generating business leads or expanding business in the past year, according to a survey conducted for Citibank Small Business of 500 U.S. businesses with fewer than 100 employees.

Also, 86 percent said they have not used social networking sites for information or business advice. Ten percent said they have sought business advice and information on expert blogs.

The low number of small businesses using such sites for business purposes was unexpected, particularly as social media use has grown overall, said Maria Veltre, executive vice president of Citi’s Small Business segment. Citibank is part of Citigroup Inc.

“We were very surprised we did not see more use of some of the social media outlets, even if just for advice,” she said.

“What this survey indicates to us is small businesses are very, very focused on running their business and on generating sales and managing their cash flow and doing the things that are really important, especially in these economic times,” Veltre said. “I don’t think quite yet the social media piece of it has proven to be as significant.”

Businesses who haven’t found social media helpful in generating leads or expanding business most likely aren’t using it correctly. It’s totally insane for any business not to be taking advantage of the social media revolution. There is simply no better place on earth for business advice and information than blogs and social networks.

Businesses that are serious about watching their cash flow and surviving the economic downturn should be leading the way in social media. Using tools like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn which cost nothing can potentially free up advertising dollars to be used elsewhere in the company. Companies that know how to use social media correctly can reach millions of customers and potential customers directly without shelling out thousands of dollars to run TV, radio, or print ads.

Fear is the number #1 obstacle to running a successful businesses. It’s human nature to get comfortable and stick to what you know. Sticking with traditional marketing methods and a few online ads thrown in for good measure is a comfortable, safe, and proven method. However, we live in a world that is changing not by the day but by the hour. Small businesses need to be able to quickly adapt to the changing environment or risk being left behind.

Having said that, there’s another way this study could be interpreted. This could actually be the greatest news ever. I say that, because it means the field is till wide open. It’s not too late for companies to get in early and stake their claim. It means 86% of companies are still clueless and only 14% see what’s happening. Which group are you in?

(hat tip Social Media Today)

Video: How To Measure Social Media

Posted on Oct 16, 2009 by Michael Herman | Posted in Social Media

Here’s Amy Martin from Digital Royalty sharing her tips on measuring social media:

Proven Social Media Headlines

Posted on Oct 15, 2009 by Michael Herman | Posted in Social Media

headlines

The key to making your content go viral is of course a killer headline. Veteran blogger Chris Garrett shares 102 tried and tested social media headlines over at Social Media For Business Workbook.

A Cosmic Shift In Advertising

Posted on Oct 15, 2009 by Michael Herman | Posted in Social Media

Take a look at this clip from brand guru Gary Vaynerchuk. He makes some some excellent points about the current state of the advertising industry and how bloggers can capitalize on it:

Seth Godin on Email Marketing, Social Media and more!

Posted on Oct 14, 2009 by ThriveAdmin | Posted in Social Media

Seth Godin on Email Marketing, Social Media and more

How to Format E-Mail Newsletters

Posted on Oct 14, 2009 by ThriveAdmin | Posted in Email Marketing

I’ve been publishing an e-mail newsletter or e-zine since 1995 and have learned a thing or two about formatting — usually from my own mistakes. In this article I’ll be talking about e-mail newsletters, but the same principles apply to all business e-mails that are sent out to customers, including transactional e-mails. Let me start from the top of the newsletter and work down, pointing out as we go e-mail formatting best practices.

1. Give Recipients a Reason to Open

While the Subject: field isn’t exactly formatting, it is the single most important line in your entire newsletter. Unless your subject line interests your reader, they’ll often pass your e-mail by without opening — even if they know you. Time is short. The question that the subject line must answer is “What’s in It for Me?” How will this e-mail benefit your recipient, your subscriber, your customer?

I strongly recommend personalizing the subject line to include the recipient’s name. I know that some spammers do this. But they do it precisely because a personalized subject line dramatically increases the open rate. Seeing your name stops your eye long enough to consider the e-mail more carefully.

Nearly all modern e-mail programs enable you to insert fields into your e-mail, but you’ll need to capture your subscriber’s name during the subscription process. Won’t asking for a name decrease the number of people who complete the subscription process? Some. But I’m convinced that using the person’s name is important to the process of building a relationship — and that’s what e-mail newsletters can do exceedingly well.

2. Identify the Sender Consistently

When your recipients are sorting through their e-mail inboxes – discarding junk and deciding what to open – they’ll look at two fields: the Subject Line and the From: field. If they don’t recognize the sender, chances are they’ll delete the e-mail without reading further.

Always make clear who the newsletter or business e-mail is from. Using only an e-mail address as the sender is the mark of a novice. The sender needs to be some person or organization that your recipient recognizes. For a long time my newsletters were sent from “Dr. Ralph F. Wilson.” More recently, the From: field is “Web Marketing Today.” Chose as sender the most recognizable name in your organization.

This field must be consistent. Don’t switch from one sender to another. What you’re trying to do here is build recognition, so when recipients see the sender, they’ll open the e-mail because they have come to value your content. On the other hand, if you don’t really offer value to the recipient, your name will become a reason to delete the e-mail.

3. Select HTML — Most of the Time

You’ll need to choose between formatting your newsletter in HTML or plain text. For the most part, the text e-mail letters I receive come from “old school” senders who cut their teeth on e-mail before HTML was available. Newer senders almost always use HTML — and for good reason.

HTML e-mails offer several advantages:

  • Click-through rates are perhaps twice that of text e-mails.
  • Tracking codes can be used in links to help you determine effectiveness of your e-mail offers. Such codes make the URL too long to display in a text newsletter.
  • Attractiveness and readability are enhanced with color, graphics, and font choices. Yes, there’s a downside here, but we’ll discuss that later.
  • Product pictures and formatting make HTML a natural vehicle for retailers to send out a mini-catalog of sale items.

Text e-mails offer other advantages:

  • Universal readability. Text-only e-mail programs had about died out. But with the advent of cell phones as an e-mail platform, that’s changed.
  • Consistency. Many large corporations and government agencies routinely strip out HTML to protect against viruses, so HTML e-mails will be viewed by end-users in unpredictable ways. If you want it to look exactly as you intended, text is the way to go.
  • Preference. Some readers prefer plain text over HTML, perhaps because they have a cell phone or work for a large organization. In my subscription forms I pre-check HTML, but find that about 15% select “plain text” anyway.
  • A slightly higher delivery rate is available with text only messages, since bare HTML is considered more likely to be spam. For this reason I always send my HTML e-mails combined with text as “multi-part MIME” rather than sending HTML by itself.

E-mail best practice is to let your subscriber select the format. Since I format a text version of every e-mail for the multi-part MIME version, it’s not much more difficult to send a text-only version to those who request it.

How Social Media Serves and Supports Small Business

Posted on Jun 28, 2009 by ThriveAdmin | Posted in Social Media

Social media platforms build buzz, boost business and serve small businesses as low-cost/no-cost marketing tools. Small business owners need to understand how these tools strategically serve and support small business first so they best implement social media strategies to sell products and/or services.

How Social Media Serves and Supports Small Business

Social Media, simply put, serves users and organizations in marketing in three ways:

1. Communication

Marketing is all about building relationships — relationships start with communication. New web tools like blogging, micro-blogging (Twitter), social networking (Facebook, LinkedIn, Ning), podcasting (BlogTalkRadio), video distribution (YouTube), event coordination tools (Meetup), wikis (Wikipedia) photo sharing (Flickr, Photobucket), and product review sites (epinions.com) allow small businesses to communicate, educate and share information directly with their current and prospective customers.

Content in the form of blog posts, audio, video, comparison/review sites, tweets and social network messages help share information in a less-formal way that builds the know, like and trust factors that influence decision making. Content is no longer just text. Small businesses can use audio or visual content for a “show me” and “tell me” to make communications a pack more interactive punch.

Social media’s direct communication distinction serves and supports small business as it brings the people you want to attract directly to you and makes direct communication possible. Social Media makes communication a conversation so small business owners can share, receive feedback and connect on equal ground with their target markets.

2. Collaboration

When small businesses empower their target consumers, they feel powerful. When your target market feels powerful, it trusts you, buys from you, and stays with you. Social media collaboration transforms consumers into prosumers. In an era of social media prosumers, it’s people (not companies) who make, shape, or break purchase patterns.

Small businesses can ignite collaboration for marketing by creating their own communities and/or joining communities. By doing so, they can listen and connect to their target customers and build a free forum to bring their market together. Collaboration = Marketing Acceleration.

Social media collaboration tools like review sites, video sharing sites, blogs, wikis and more allow users to self-serve, collaborate, and potentially serve as an endorser for your small business. Social media works as a marketing tool because people are more likely to trust peers rather than companies.

The power of mass collaboration serves and supports small business owners in a distinct way. Tapping/creating valuable collaborative options can bring people together to share ideas, exchange information, and help each other — and support relationship growth. Removing the “company/client” disconnect can break down elitism and boost marketing mind power.

3. Entertainment

The most important reason that social media works as a marketing tool is simple — because it’s fun. People want to go where they feel they belong, have a voice, are listened to, and enjoy themselves. Small business owners need to be where their target markets are — and these days, the masses are on Facebook, Ning, Twitter, Linkedin, Photobucket, YouTube and more because it has entertainment value.

Will It Blend - iPhone 3G - BlendtecRemember the Will It Blend? campaigns by Blendtec? They were a perfect example of social media marketing in brilliant action. Videos were relevant as they showed the product, were entertaining (they blended an iPhone!), and they were viral! People could easily share the fun with friends due to the ease of social media sharing widgets.

You can’t put a dollar amount on free promotion. The way social media stores data as an “Interactive Rolodex” also has an entertainment factor. Sites like Facebook and LinkedIn are becoming the “new databases” because they are fast, easy, and fun. People are more likely to update their Facebook and LinkedIn information than a sterile address book because it is fun.

Small business owners use social media’s entertainment factor to build their online database of contacts and connections, be visible to prospective customers, and get the word out in creative ways like YouTube videos, blog posts, images, podcasts to make people smile and spread the word.

How Social Media Helps Small Businesses Sell

Social Media Marketing helps most small businesses boost sales indirectly by increasing relationships. Understanding that social media marketing serves users for communication, collaboration, and entertainment is the first step to considering how to strategically implement the multitude of social media marketing tools and choose the ones that work best for your unique organization.

The key thing that small businesses need to remember when using social media to help sell is that efforts must have value. There has to be value to your content, community, and execution to get people to engage with you or your organization. Social media doesn’t sell things — people sell things. Engaging in social media marketing starts the relationship-building process. Start small and snowball. Social media takes understanding, passion, effort, and commitment to make it work. Give your small business an authentic voice with social media and commit to providing value and you will be off to a smart start.

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